The Seattle City Council on Monday signaled its intention to consider a minimum rate for drivers who work for ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.
A non-binding resolution, which passed unanimously, states that the council will explore setting a minimum base fare rate of $2.40 for ride share companies. Uber and Lyft currently charge $1.35 per mile in Seattle. Supporters hope a higher base fare will help level the market for taxi drivers, who charge $2.70 per mile.
The resolution also calls for a work plan to explore new regulations on for-hire transportation companies, including updates to the licensing process, insurance standards and operating fees.
Finally, an amendment to the resolution calls for ride-sharing companies to voluntarily hand over anonymous data on hours, trips, fares and compensation. Before voting, council president and resolution sponsor Bruce Harrell said that it's intended to move closer to a level playing field between taxi and ride share drivers.
"It’s not a question of flattening all tires," Harrell said. "It’s a question of looking at our core values in an industry that continues to evolve and trying to get the data we need to make smart decisions."
As Stranger labor writer Heidi Groover recently reported, Uber wages vary, depending on whether you’re speaking with a union-friendly driver or one recruited by the company to oppose regulations. Some Uber drivers say they make less than minimum wage after expenses. Others say they make upwards of $25 per hour.
City officials hope the company data will help them develop a “clear understanding of the current state of the for-hire industry as it formulates policies,” the resolution says.
The council’s move continues an ongoing effort to improve the working conditions for drivers as ride share companies continue to gut the taxi industry. Uber and Lyft took Seattle to court over the most substantial policy, an ordinance allowing their drivers to unionize. That case is currently in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Uber also challenged this resolution. "We are generally unclear how nearly doubling per-mile rider rates would not result in an increased cost for riders,” said Alejandro Chouza, the General Manager for Uber in Seattle, during a public comment session. Chouza added that Uber supports de-regulating the taxi industry, rather than raising ride share rates.
Teamsters Local 117, the union representing Uber and Lyft workers, supports the resolution and says further regulations of ride share companies will help workers survive in an industry where they're offered few benefits. Takele Gobana, a representative for the union, brought up an NPR study showing that one-in-five workers is an independent contractor.
"The economy is changing but workers independently contracted with Uber and Lyft and the gig economy are being exploited, underpaid and most of them are immigrants, refugees and people of color," Gobana said.